by Al Maxey
Issue #734 -------
October 23, 2017
Fearlessness is the first requisite of
spirituality. Cowards can never be moral.
Mohandas K. Gandhi [1869-1948]
General Karl von Clausewitz (1780-1831), a great Prussian military officer and theorist who delved deeply into both the political and psychological aspects of war, made the following statement in his most famous work "Vom Kriege" ("On War," which was an unfinished work published posthumously): "There are cases in which the greatest daring is the greatest wisdom." In that same work, Karl von Clausewitz observed that there are two kinds of courage: (1) Physical courage, which one may experience in the face of great danger to one's own person, and (2) Moral courage, which prompts one to take a bold stand for what is right, even though it may not be popular, even though the opposition to you and your cause may be enormous, even though it may prove to be fatal. Field-Marshal Montgomery (1887-1976) defined moral courage as being "not afraid to say or do what you believe to be right." General Douglas MacArthur (1880-1964) said that moral courage is "the courage of one's convictions; the courage to see things through. The world is in a constant conspiracy against the brave. It's the age-old struggle: the roar of the crowd on one side and the voice of your conscience on the other." Benjamin Disraeli (1804-1881) suggested that moral courage is "the rarest and most admirable quality of public life." Robert F. Kennedy (1925-1968) concurred: "Few are willing to brave the disapproval of their fellows, the censure of their colleagues, the wrath of their society. Moral courage is a rarer commodity than bravery in battle or great intelligence. Yet it is the one essential vital quality for those who seek to change a world that yields most painfully to change."
Significant change, no matter how much it may be needed, has rarely come easily. We have a tendency to cherish our cozy comfort zones, and do not take kindly to calls and challenges to come forth and embrace change. Even when we realize such change may be in our best interests, we still tend to resist. This is especially true when it pertains to long-held societal and/or religious traditions (some of which may even be virtually revered in our minds as though they were eternal truths). President John Adams (1735-1826) rightly noted, in a letter to James Warren in 1776, "All great changes are irksome to the human mind, especially those which are attended with great dangers and uncertain effects." As a result, and as we all know only too well from personal experience, some people resist change as though it were a deadly plague. Indeed, they almost take pride in their unwillingness to even consider anything different or new. This is not strength, however, but weakness of character. "Like all weak men he laid an exaggerated stress on not changing one's mind" [William Somerset Maugham, "Of Human Bondage," chapter 39]. The French poet Auguste-Marseille Barthélemy (1796-1867) put it this way: "The absurd man is he who never changes." A good way to facilitate fossilization is to fear and flee from change. As species and societies evolve they experience change, and those that resist eventually become extinct. Sadly, the same is true spiritually speaking: those who won't accept the changes that naturally come with spiritual growth in God's grace will eventually become extinct. I have dealt with this in some depth in Reflections #49 ("Fossilization: An Extinction Theory").
As we read through the sacred Scriptures, and as we study the dealings of God with mankind, we cannot help but perceive countless instances of responsible change occurring in the lives of both individuals and nations. Some of these changes are subtle; some are quite significant. In the latter category is a change God made to Jewish law governing property rights and women's rights: a change in the law of succession and inheritance prompted by the courageous legal challenge of five young sisters who felt the prevailing system was sexist and grossly unfair to women. It's never easy, and rarely popular, to challenge the system, but that is exactly what these young women did ... and they prevailed! God Himself declared, "They are right!" ... and He amended the law of the land! This is a powerful story, yet my guess is that most of you reading this article have never heard it before. So, sit back and prepare to be amazed at the boldness of five young orphaned sisters as they come before "the powers that be" (both in heaven and on earth), and come away with a victory for women's rights that would serve as a powerful legal precedent even to this day!
Let's set the scene for this remarkable story. The people of Israel had left their 400 years of Egyptian bondage and fled to the wilderness where they would wander for the next 40 years. That time was now coming to an end, and the prospect of entering the land of Canaan, which would be their new homeland, was imminent. Of those who left Egypt decades before, who were above the age of twenty, "not a man was left of them, except Caleb the son of Jephunneh, and Joshua the son of Nun" (Numbers 26:65). This was a new generation, and they were about to embark upon a conquest of this new land, a land the Lord has promised them as their inheritance. This land would be divided among the tribes of Israel, and to facilitate this distribution of property the Lord instructed Moses and Eleazar, the son of Aaron and nephew of Moses, to take a census of the people. The parceling of property would be determined by the results of this census of the various tribes (this census, and its results, may be found in Numbers 26). In the section dealing with the census taken of the descendants of Joseph (vs. 28-37), we find this statement: "Now Zelophehad the son of Hepher had no sons, but only daughters; and the names of the daughters of Zelophehad were Mahlah, Noah, Hoglah, Milcah and Tirzah" (vs. 33). At this point in the biblical narrative nothing further is stated. We are simply informed that one of the descendants of Joseph, through his son Manasseh, had no sons; he only had daughters. This might seem rather inconsequential to us today, but in that culture it was enormous!
Go back and take a close look at Numbers 26. As Moses and Eleazar took the census, who was being counted? It was sons. "These are those who were numbered by Moses and Eleazar the priest, who numbered the sons of Israel in the plains of Moab by the Jordan at Jericho" (Numbers 26:63). At that time among the people of Israel, "the inheritance customs allowed only men to own property" [Holman Bible Dictionary, p. 1437]. "It is the male, then, who is the central figure in preserving family continuity in name and in property, which are intimately related" [The Interpreter's Dictionary of the Bible, vol. 4, p. 950]. "In the ancient Near East, up until about 3500 years ago, women had no property rights. If a father died leaving no sons, his daughters did not inherit what he left" [Edith Deen, All of the Women of the Bible, p. 62]. "In the Bible, property went to surviving male relatives, and Zelophehad 'had no sons, but daughters'" [Eerdmans Dictionary of the Bible, p. 1415]. It was a male dominated society (both secularly and religiously), and disparity between the standing/status of men and women was visible in almost all areas of life. It would be a mistake, I believe, to suggest this distinction was "the will of God," yet there is no question that some of the laws and customs (the latter especially) of the people of Israel certainly seemed to lend a sense of affirmation to that perception. Sadly, even to this day in the church we find those who still persist in promoting a disparity, in both perception and practice, in the standing/status of women and men. They will take a few biblical texts out of context, and a number of human traditions elevated to the status of divine truths, and employ these to keep women "in their place" in the church. I firmly believe such does not reflect the mind of our God, even though God at times, and for various divine purposes, allowed such injustices to continue. At other times, however, He stepped into history and made some dramatic changes. Such would be the case here as the people prepared to enter the land of promise and divide the property among themselves.
It would appear that not only was the father (Zelophehad) of these five sisters deceased, but their mother was dead as well. For one thing, that whole generation (except for Joshua and Caleb) had died in the wilderness. Further, had the wife of Zelophehad still been living, then one would expect the "Law of Levirate Marriage" to take effect. That this did not happen suggests she was deceased, and also that he may not have had any surviving brothers or other male relatives who could fulfill that law and thus keep the inheritance in his family. For those unfamiliar with this law, I would recommend a study of my following Reflections, for I have dealt with it at some length in each of them: (1) "The Genealogy of Jesus: Focusing on His Family Tree from the Gospels of Matthew & Luke" - Issue #231, (2) "Whose Spouse Will She Be? The Eternal Marital State of the Woman who Outlived 7 Husbands" - Issue #441, and (3) "Pondering Polygamy: Seeking the Biblical Perspective" - Issue #604. Given all of these factors, the plight of these five daughters of Zelophehad was dire indeed. These five girls "were not married until some time after this, and must, therefore, according to the almost invariable custom, have been quite young at this time," some even suggesting they may have been in their teens [The Pulpit Commentary, vol. 2: Numbers, p. 364]. Their father's name, and his portion of the land (his inheritance), was in danger of being forever lost, and this was huge in the minds of the Jews. Although each of the five daughters would eventually marry, and thus have the security of the name and land of their husband, this would not change the fact of the loss of their father's name and land. It was this loss especially, not so much that they themselves wanted to be given land, that compelled them to take the bold action they did. It was to honor their father and preserve his name and his portion of the land of promise.
Their motivation, then, was not for personal enrichment, but rather that their father's name be honored and preserved. "Why should the name of our father be withdrawn from among his family because he had no son?" (Numbers 27:4). "The desire of the daughters of Zelophehad was that their father's name should be perpetuated - i.e., that their sons should be enrolled as descendants of Zelophehad, and should succeed to that portion of the land which, under ordinary circumstances, would have fallen to his sons, had he left any behind him" [Dr. Charles Ellicott, Commentary on the Whole Bible, vol. 1, p. 555]. "This alteration in inheritance laws was sought in order that the father's name might be kept alive" [The Interpreter's Dictionary of the Bible, vol. 4, p. 950]. Thus, their cause was a noble one, not a selfish one! They sought to be regarded as equal to sons in the sight of the law of inheritance "so that his name would be perpetuated" [International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, vol. 4, p. 1187]. Would they themselves benefit? Yes, they would. They would inherit land, just as a son would have. Would their children benefit? Yes, they would. They too would inherit land, as descendants of Zelophehad. If the law was not changed, however - if their petition was not granted - the name and inheritance of their father would perish; in time, it would be as though he never existed. His daughters would be absorbed, by marriage, into other families and tribes, and the lineage of their father, and his portion in the land of promise, would be terminated. It was a burning desire to prevent this that emboldened these five brave young daughters of Zelophehad.
"Here is a story impinging on the rights of women in early Israel. ... As such, this is a significant chapter in the sociology of early Israel. It is also an important contribution to the biblical theology of the Book of Numbers. While we tend to focus on the fact that it was women who were presenting a claim to Moses, the substance of their claim did not center in gender, but only sprang from it. The issue centered in the concept of the land and one's share in it as the spiritual destiny of the redeemed community of Israel" [The Expositor's Bible Commentary, vol. 2, p. 942]. Yes, these five young women were embarking upon a legal journey that would impact women for centuries (even millennia), yet that was not their original intent. "Without being conscious of it, they really demanded an elevation of woman in her social dignity" [Dr. Paul E. Kretzmann, Popular Commentary of the Bible: the OT, vol. 1, p. 288]. "Their action in approaching Moses, Eleazar, and the leaders of the nation was unprecedented, a great act of courage, conviction, and faith. The women's act of coming near to Moses is detailed rather graphically (Numbers 27:1-2). They stood before Moses, before Eleazar the priest, and before the leaders and all the congregation at the entrance of the Tent of Meeting (vs. 3). This march to the central shrine by these women must have been incredible to those who were watching. With the exception of Miriam, the sister of Moses and Aaron, we do not read of any other women coming to such sacral precincts in these ancient narratives" [The Expositor's Bible Commentary, vol. 2, p. 942]. Simply put: this was unheard of! Women didn't do such things, especially young, unmarried women. There must have been a deathly silence as everyone watched them break with custom and make this bold, unbidden approach to make their case before these leaders and their God. At a time when many watching had witnessed God strike down thousands in the wilderness for transgressions, there must have been a fearful expectation among some that they were about to witness the extermination of the last of Zelophehad's family. Yet, the girls did not waver in their determination. They felt their cause was just, and that the custom of their leaders was not, and they pressed forward.
"The daughters of Zelophehad had filed one of the earliest reported lawsuits on record. Jurists still turn to it for opinions and have declared it the oldest decided case 'that is still cited as an authority.' In the American Bar Association's 'Journal' of February, 1924, there appears an article by Henry C. Clark in which this decision of the daughters of Zelophehad is quoted. It is described as an 'early declaratory judgment in which the property rights of women marrying outside of their tribe are clearly set forth'" [Edith Deen, All of the Women of the Bible, p. 63]. It is instructive to read what they are reported to have said to Moses, Eleazar and the other leaders of Israel, for their words are few, but powerful. "Our father died in the desert. He was not among Korah's followers, who banded together against the Lord, but he died for his own sin and left no sons. Why should our father's name disappear from his clan because he had no son? Give us property among our father's relatives" (Numbers 27:3-4, NIV). That this brief appeal had an impact upon Jewish history is noted in the fact that the names of each of these five sisters is preserved, something not commonly done at that early stage of their history. "It is a curious instance of the inartificial character of the sacred records that these five names, which have not the least interest in themselves, are repeated thrice in this book (Numbers 26:33; 27:1; 36:11) and once in Joshua (17:3). It is evident that the case made a deep impression upon the mind of the nation at the time!" [The Pulpit Commentary, vol. 2: Numbers, p. 459]. "In a book in which names of women are given only rarely, the names of these women are repeated!" [The Expositor's Bible Commentary, vol. 2, p. 1007]. They even appear in some extra-biblical documents: "Two of those names, Hoglah and Noah, are mentioned in the Samaria Ostraca in the region of Manasseh" [Eerdmans Dictionary of the Bible, p. 1415], thus validating the biblical account that these women did indeed become land owners.
For the record, the names of these five young daughters of Zelophehad (a direct descendant of Joseph) were: Mahlah, Noah, Hoglah, Milcah and Tirzah. Some commentators have suggested they were the inspiration for the five wise virgins in Jesus' Parable of the Ten Virgins (Matthew 25:1-13). "These five virgins may be considered as the five wise virgins who took oil in their vessels with their lamps, and consequently are types of those who make a wise provision for their eternal state" [Adam Clarke, Clarke's Commentary, vol. 1, p. 709]. From the time of Origen (184-253 A.D.) on, the names of these women were thought to contain secret meaning, and thus spiritual significance, for Christians. For those interested in pursuing this "specimen of pious ingenuity" [ibid], I would refer you to the above referenced work of Adam Clarke (1760-1832], who goes into quite a bit of detail on this in his commentary [vol. 1, p. 709]. As a side note, there is also a bit of humor associated with one of the names: Milcah. There are two women in the Bible with this name, the other being an ancestor of the daughter of Zelophehad. The other Milcah was married to the brother of Abraham; she was the grandmother of Rebekah, who was the mother of Jacob/Israel. There is a riddle that has made the rounds for years: "How many men does it take to milk a bear?" The answer is found in Genesis 22:23 - "Eight sons did Milcah bear." One of those sons, by the way, was Bethuel, the father of Rebekah, from whom would descend the second woman in the Bible named Milcah (very likely named after the former one).
As a part of their appeal, these women made a point of noting that their father had not participated in the rebellion of Korah, "which might have occasioned his exclusion from any participation in the promised land, but had simply died 'through his (own) sin,' i.e. on account of such sin as everyone commits, and such as all who died in the wilderness had committed as well as he" [Drs. Keil & Delitzsch, Commentary on the Old Testament, vol. 1: The Pentateuch, part 3, p. 212]. This rebellion against the leadership of Moses is recorded in Numbers 16. The Lord killed a great many people for this act of rebellion, but the daughters of Zelophehad wanted Moses to realize that their father was not one of them (an important legal point to establish at the outset in their petition). Yes, their father was not perfect; he was a sinner, but so was every other person who had died in the wilderness over the past 40 years, and that fact was not preventing any of their descendants from inheriting a portion of the land of promise [Note: there is a Jewish legend that identifies Zelophehad with the unnamed man who was stoned to death for gathering wood on the Sabbath (Numbers 15:32-36), but there is absolutely no evidence to substantiate such a speculation]. These five daughters showed great wisdom in the way they composed their case. Moses also displayed great wisdom in his response to the petition of these young women: "So Moses brought their case before the Lord" (Numbers 27:5). The people were watching very carefully: whatever Moses did would be discussed and analyzed time and again. He had to be careful, for this was an unprecedented event that would set a precedent for generations to come. Moses did the right thing. He said nothing; instead he took the case to the Lord God (Oh that some of us could learn that same lesson today!!). "In the Masoretic Text of this verse, the term 'their case' is written with an oversize, darkened 'nun' (the so-called 'majuscule nun'), indicating the suffixed pronoun 'their' (feminine plural). It seems that the scribe used this unusual letter to bring special attention to the fact that this was an appeal from women" [The Expositor's Bible Commentary, vol. 2, p. 942-943].
We are not informed in the narrative as to the precise methodology utilized by God for conveying His determination in the matter to Moses (unless we assume He literally spoke audibly). Instead, we are simply told that the Lord said to Moses, "What Zelophehad's daughters are saying is right. You must certainly give them property as an inheritance among their father's relatives and turn their father's inheritance over to them" (Numbers 27:7, NIV). The New Living Translation reads, "The claim of the daughters of Zelophehad is legitimate. You must give them a grant of land along with their father's relatives. Assign them the property that would have been given to their father." God also ordered additional amendments to the laws of succession and inheritance, and told Moses to convey these specifics to the people of Israel (these may be read in Numbers 27:8-11). Imagine how stunning this divine adjudication of the case must have been to the leaders and the people of Israel. God had amended law/custom and ruled for five young women! Who could have guessed that outcome?! By order of God Himself, "Women were now numbered as human beings and legally entitled to the same property rights as men" [Edith Deen, All of the Women of the Bible, p. 63-64]. This was now the law of the land. By the act of these young women, "legal precedent had been set in Israel" [The Wycliffe Bible Encyclopedia, vol. 2, p. 1842]. "Rather than tamely submit to injustice" [The Pulpit Commentary, vol. 2: Numbers, p. 365], and go along with the settled traditions of their fellow Israelites, they marched to the doorway of the Tent of Meeting and confronted the leaders with a reasonable and respectful challenge to the status quo ... and God Himself told Moses, "They are right!" This was revolutionary! They were simply unwilling to submit to the obvious "injustice consequent on a strict adherence to social traditions" [ibid]. Tradition or not; law or not; it was just wrong; it was time for things to change; women had rights too! It was almost as if God was just waiting for someone with the fortitude and faith to "take on City Hall" to step boldly forward and demand change! And when these girls did just that, God had their back!! "The five daughters of Zelophehad had declared their rights and had won a court decision that legal courts accept as law to this day!" [Deen, p. 64].
As you might expect, some were less than pleased with the outcome. Questions were raised by those in the same tribe and clan as these five daughters of Zelophehad as to how this was going to work in actual application: especially if these daughters were to marry someone outside of this tribe. Would the allotted portion of the land going to the half-tribe of Manasseh, and the clan of Gilead, be transferred to other tribes, thus reducing the portion previously given to them, and enlarging the portion of whatever tribe(s) these girls chose to marry into?! This was a fair question. Although the decision of God giving these women property rights was the right decision, it nevertheless did raise some legitimate logistical concerns. Numbers 36 (the concluding chapter in this fourth book of the Pentateuch) deals with this challenge to the previous ruling by God, and it gives us God's response. As with the challenge of the five daughters, God responded with similar words of grace: "What the tribe of the descendants of Joseph is saying is right!" (Numbers 36:5). In fairness to these men, they were not saying that they opposed these five women being granted property rights; what concerned them, and what they would oppose, was the possibility of their tribe's portion of the land being diminished if these women married outside their own tribe. And, as God notes, they were right to voice this concern. The whole point of the census Moses and Eleazar were ordered by God to take was to ensure a fair apportioning of the land to the various tribes. Now, with this new ruling in favor of these five women, there was the possibility of that portion belonging to their father being given away to other tribes by their choice of husbands. Although in theory that land should be returned to the original owners in the Jubilee (vs. 4; cf. Leviticus 25:10f), these men seemed confused by that, and uncertain as to how or if it would actually work. There was a need for divine clarification, and also assurance of their understanding "that the portion assigned to each tribe was to continue unchanged to all generations" [Drs. Keil & Delitzsch, Commentary on the Old Testament, vol. 1: The Pentateuch, part 3, p. 267].
Therefore, God amends His amendment. "Here was an instance of progressive legislation in Israel, the enactments made being suggested by circumstances" [Drs. Jamieson, Fausset & Brown, Commentary Practical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible, p. 140]. God placed a necessary restriction upon His previous amendment, but it "was imposed only on those who were heiresses" [ibid]. "This is what the Lord commands for Zelophehad's daughters: They may marry anyone they please as long as they marry within the tribal clan of their father. No inheritance in Israel is to pass from tribe to tribe, for every Israelite shall keep the tribal land inherited from his forefathers. Every daughter who inherits land in any Israelite tribe must marry someone in her father's tribal clan, so that every Israelite will possess the inheritance of his fathers. No inheritance may pass from tribe to tribe, for each Israelite tribe is to keep the land it inherits" (Numbers 36:6-9). To the credit of these young women, they readily obeyed the command of the Lord God. "So Zelophehad's daughters did as the Lord commanded Moses" (vs. 10). "They married within the clans of the descendants of Manasseh son of Joseph, and their inheritance remained in their father's clan and tribe" (vs. 12). Really, this was no great concession for them (although some tend to see it that way), for the chief concern in their legal petition was that their father's name and portion in the land NOT be lost! This indeed was the outcome, and all sides (the daughters as well as their fellow tribe and clan members) were satisfied. Again, this amendment only applied to heiresses; all other women were free by divine instruction to marry in or out of their tribe or clan. The only restriction was when property was involved. "This sequence of events is a significant entry in the history of women's issues. It is two steps forward and one back; but there is movement forward - a countercultural thrust that has the blessing of God" [The Expositor's Bible Commentary, vol. 2, p. 1006]. The example of these five young women shows a true love of their father (and of Father God), and "an earnest desire of a place and name in the land of promise (heaven). ... Their example should quicken us with all possible diligence to make sure our title to the heavenly inheritance, in the disposal of which, by the covenant of grace, no difference is made between male and female!" [Matthew Henry (1662-1714), Commentary on the Whole Bible, e-Sword]. "For you are ALL sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus" (Galatians 3:26). "There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free man, there is neither male nor female; for you are ALL one in Christ Jesus. And if you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham's offspring, heirs according to promise" (Galatians 3:28-29).
From a Reader in California:
Brother, I have been reading your Reflections articles for about a decade now - and, man, your knowledge is really astounding! And I used to think that I was pretty knowledgeable of the Bible. I heard John Madden say that he thought he knew a lot about coaching until he heard Vince Lombardi explain one play for 8 hours: he then said that he didn't know anything about coaching in comparison! I'm now of that same mind: once I started reading your articles I realized that I actually know very little about the Scriptures. Reading your studies, with all the deep, deep insights, references, bibliographies, etc., has convinced me that not only do I know very little, but I will never get to that level of knowledge and understanding that you have. Yet, I take comfort in the fact that I don't have to, for I have direct access to you, my friend, and your writings. You have made your work readily available to everybody: with only a few clicks of my laptop, phone, tablet, or notebook that knowledge and insight is right before my eyes. What an awesome age we live in! An era where another man's vast understanding is right at anyone's fingertips! Al, you da man!! Please keep right on being "Da Man!" I'm a huge fan, my dear friend and brother!!
From a Publisher/Author in Nevada:
Al, in your study titled "God's Plan for the Unenlightened: Pondering the Parameters of Divine Acceptance of Human Response to Available Light" (Reflections #158) your description of the doctrine of Available Light clearly identifies and demonstrates the parameters of this marvelous biblical truth. God does not expect the impossible of anyone. Whatever truths are in the environment of any individual, any time and any where, will be His standard of judgment when Jesus returns to judge all men. If a person has never been exposed to certain truths (which we may find in Scripture), he is not amenable to them. Denying the God of heaven, as revealed in His creation and in the moral realm, is enough to condemn. I have written a 128 page book titled "Natural Law: Universal in Scope, Moral in Design," and it is a touchstone to the unchurched who want to know more about the God of grace and equity (truths which legalistic religion does not entertain).
From a Reader in Texas:
Yes, in Reflections #733 you have provided us with one more interesting biblical story ("King David and the Diatherapist: Strange Account of Abishag the Shunammite") that we've never heard a sermon on! Your article reminded me of the novel by Joseph Heller (of "Catch 22" fame) titled "God Knows." It's the irreverent and frustrated musings of old King David as he laments his final lot in life. The title of the first chapter is: "Abishag the Shunammite."
From a Reader in Virginia:
Thank you for your Reflections on "King David and the Diatherapist." Ever since the fall of man in Genesis 3, Satan has constantly tried to invalidate the seed of the woman through infiltration or destruction of the godly lineage. Again, his attempt failed. This study helped me to put 1 Kings 1-2 into proper context. I especially appreciate your insightful explanations of the cultural significance of the events that occurred. Without them, none of this makes sense. I am so encouraged by you, and I look forward to reading more of your work. May God continue to bless you and your family.
From an Author in Arizona:
Your treatment of David and Abishag was very interesting, Al. I have personally never held back in presenting this story to others, even when the "powers that be" have objected. It is indeed a biblical story (it's in the Bible), although the actions taken are nowhere stated to be divinely approved, which shows even more the validity of the Scriptures: for God not only allowed the good to be recorded in these writings, but also the bad. There is zero implication that God approved of what David's servants prescribed for him. You covered this story very well, Al -- as usual. Cheers, brother!
From a Minister in New Zealand:
Hi Al, I just received and read your Reflections article titled "The Priesthood of All Believers: The Who-When-How of Christian Service" (Reflections #732), which has led me to wonder if our "selective gender" brethren have actually read Genesis 1:26-27 - "Then God said, 'Let Us make humankind in Our image, according to Our likeness; and let them have dominion' ... So God created humankind in His image, in the image of God He created them, male and female He created them" (NRSV). What more can I say?! The only thing I can add is: isn't it significant that woman was created (formed) out of man, not separate and apart from man. Mankind is unique in this respect; no other part of creation was created this way. No wonder the NT says there is neither male or female in Christ. God bless you, Al.
From a Reader in California:
I am very familiar with the story of Adonijah's attempted coup and the poor young girl named Abishag. This is just another example of how godly men sometimes treated (and still treat) godly women in an ungodly manner. This is just one of the curses Samuel promised the people of Israel when they demanded a king: he would begin taking from them the best of everything they had, including their sons and daughters (1 Samuel 8:10-18), for his own personal use. I felt very sad after reading about Abishag, and how she was just a pawn in the political mess between David, Solomon, Bathsheba, Adonijah and Nathan. She had no way to win in this, only lose. Thank you so much for your Reflections ministry, Al. My day brightens every time I see one of your studies hit my email inbox. You are indeed a blessing in my life, and when I'm blessed, I feel like I want to bless others! May the Lord continue to give you grace, peace and mercy!
From a Reader in Texas:
Al, there are some things that just irritate me to death, and hearing people defame the character of God is one of them: it really, really bothers me! Here is a Reflections title that you could perhaps put to good use: "Are 99.99% Of All Humanity Really More Compassionate Than God?" It really hit me the other day that if I was to suggest the appropriate punishment for a liar would be for the government to torture this person almost to the point of death, yet keep them alive so they could torture him or her on and on and on forever ... well, would there be anyone found on earth who would really agree with me on such a course of punishment?! Yet, this is exactly what many Christians believe God will do to the vast majority of mankind!!
The traditional view of how God will deal ultimately with the lost is, in my view, about as close to blasphemy against God as anything I can imagine. Everlasting conscious torture is what many teach our loving God will forever inflict upon the lost, and that He will torment them unendingly for such things as praising Him with instrumental accompaniment, eating in a church building, using multiple cups in Communion trays, having a Sunday School, and a thousand other religious trivialities. This teaching is FALSE! It is blasphemous. I have dealt with this extensively in my fourth book: "From Ruin to Resurrection" (which includes a Foreword by Edward Fudge), demonstrating from Scripture how such a teaching is really an attack upon the character of our God and Father. -- Al Maxey
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